Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

A Brighton shade of Green

What is the wider significance of the Greens' success in Brighton and how can they build on it? Hilary Wainwright caught up with the party's new MP Caroline Lucas as she set up office in Westminster

May 29, 2010
4 min read


Hilary WainwrightHilary Wainwright is a member of Red Pepper's editorial collective and a fellow of the Transnational Institute. @hilarypepper


  share     tweet  

Hilary Wainwright How do you explain your victory, beyond extremely hard work and a concentration of Green Party resources?

Caroline Lucas We were building on people’s familiarity with Green policies and politicians after many years of Green councillors Brighton. When they see them in action, they like them and want more. That’s meant we’ve been able to increase our vote year-on-year, including at the European elections last year when the Greens came ahead of every other party not only in Brighton but in Norwich and Oxford too.

Brighton is a very politically savvy place – people here are interested in politics, and they like to be ahead of the curve. This election gave us the opportunity to emphasise not just our environmental policies but our strong policies on social justice and tackling inequality too. With declining support for Labour, we were perceived by many as the party to keep the Conservatives out. The Lib Dems are very weak in Brighton with only two councillors out of 54.

Wainwright And the fall in the Green vote elsewhere?

Lucas The Green vote was squeezed, not least because of our archaic electoral system, the lack of state funding for political parties (we could only afford to field candidates in half the seats), and because of the effect of the TV leader debates, excluding smaller parties. The areas where the three main parties agreed and we had very different views (privatisation, Afghanistan, cuts rather than our programme of £44 billion in investment) were not put under any real examination.

Wainwright Being an MP can isolate people from their base, in spite of good intentions. How will you resist these pressures? How will you use the position to help build progressive alliances and initiatives?

Lucas I’m sure the Green Party will keep me grounded! I intend to be a vigorous constituency MP, engaging with residents with a range of tools: social media, traditional surgeries, open-air ‘street meets’ – of which we’ve had two so far in Brighton. We are also examining how my work can best link up with the party’s wider campaigning efforts. I will be voting on issues on a case-by-case basis, and hope that alliances can be forged on specific issues with more progressive MPs, whatever their party.

Wainwright Obviously the cuts are going to be a key issue. What will be your strategy to defend public services and benefits? What lessons do you draw from the Green Party’s experience in Ireland [where it entered into a government coalition in 2007]?

Lucas I plan to forge links with all those who oppose the cuts, particularly from the unions, and with groups like the Green New Deal group. There are alternatives to public spending cuts. We should be making a strong case for higher taxes for those on higher incomes, together with more imaginative revenue-raising ideas like the Robin Hood tax and cracking down on tax evasion and avoidance. It’s precisely at a time of recession that we need government investment in the green infrastructure, both to cut emissions and – crucially – to create jobs as fast as possible. The lesson from Ireland is not to join coalitions until you are strong enough to have real influence over them.

Wainwright Is there any scope to get half-decent green policies out of the Tory Lib coalition?

Lucas Clearly, we can support some measures the coalition has announced – cancelling runway expansion at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, for example. But this goes nowhere near far enough: we need an end to all airport expansion in the UK. A green investment bank is definitely a positive step forward – but the challenge will be to ensure that all economic activity is put in a context of recognising environmental limits.

An early test of the government will be its position at the European energy ministers’ meeting in Brussels to discuss whether Europe should revise its main climate target upwards – they absolutely must do this. The Conservatives also have to recognise that while ‘localism’ is good, only central government has the big economic levers to drive investment in clean technologies.

Wainwright How can you use your position to go beyond specific issues to develop and project an alternative vision? How do you intend to work with the many people outside the Green Party who broadly share your politics?

Lucas I’m absolutely convinced that the task of developing an alternative vision needs to involve as many groupings, networks and individuals as possible. Greens have a lot to contribute – but it has to be a genuinely grass-roots process, involving all of those who want to see a transformation in our economy and society, so that social and environmental justice is at its heart.

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.
Share this article  
  share on facebook     share on twitter  

Hilary WainwrightHilary Wainwright is a member of Red Pepper's editorial collective and a fellow of the Transnational Institute. @hilarypepper


Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world

A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle

Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune

Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali

To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi

Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun

Essay: After neoliberalism, what next?
There are economically-viable, socially-desirable alternatives to the failed neoliberal economic model, writes Jayati Ghosh

With the new nuclear ban treaty, it’s time to scrap Trident – and spend the money on our NHS
As a doctor, I want to see money spent on healthcare not warfare, writes David McCoy - Britain should join the growing international movement for disarmament

Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India, by Shashi Tharoor, reviewed by Ian Sinclair

A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder, by Grace A Musila, reviewed by Allen Oarbrook

‘We remembered that convictions can inspire and motivate people’: interview with Lisa Nandy MP
The general election changed the rules, but there are still tricky issues for Labour to face, Lisa Nandy tells Ashish Ghadiali

Everything you know about Ebola is wrong
Vicky Crowcroft reviews Ebola: How a People’s Science Helped End an Epidemic, by Paul Richards

Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for an online editor
Closing date for applications: 1 September.

Theresa May’s new porn law is ridiculous – but dangerous
The law is almost impossible to enforce, argues Lily Sheehan, but it could still set a bad precedent

Interview: Queer British Art
James O'Nions talks to author Alex Pilcher about the Tate’s Queer British Art exhibition and her book A Queer Little History of Art

Cable the enabler: new Lib Dem leader shows a party in crisis
Vince Cable's stale politics and collusion with the Conservatives belong in the dustbin of history, writes Adam Peggs

Anti-Corbyn groupthink and the media: how pundits called the election so wrong
Reporting based on the current consensus will always vastly underestimate the possibility of change, argues James Fox

Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole

Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part

Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper

Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s

Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach

Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.

Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite

Power to the renters: Turning the tide on our broken housing system
Heather Kennedy, from the Renters Power Project, argues it’s time to reject Thatcher’s dream of a 'property-owning democracy' and build renters' power instead

Your vote can help Corbyn supporters win these vital Labour Party positions
Left candidate Seema Chandwani speaks to Red Pepper ahead of ballot papers going out to all members for a crucial Labour committee

Join the Rolling Resistance to the frackers
Al Wilson invites you to take part in a month of anti-fracking action in Lancashire with Reclaim the Power

The Grenfell public inquiry must listen to the residents who have been ignored for so long
Councils handed housing over to obscure, unaccountable organisations, writes Anna Minton – now we must hear the voices they silenced

India: Modi’s ‘development model’ is built on violence and theft from the poorest
Development in India is at the expense of minorities and the poor, writes Gargi Battacharya

North Korea is just the start of potentially deadly tensions between the US and China
US-China relations have taken on a disturbing new dimension under Donald Trump, writes Dorothy Guerrero


1